Nearly 20 concerned Gardiner residents spoke at the Town Board’s Feb. 9 public hearing on the draft short term rental law. Almost all raised concern that the legislation would be detrimental.
The proposed local law, crafted over the course of nearly two years by the Town Board, runs at 11 pages and is available on the town website. It states that its purpose is to permit the town residents to take advantage of the economic benefits of short term rentals of residential land and housing units while protecting the character of Gardiner, but many speakers argued the legislation would do the opposite.
“I do feel that this proposed law in its current form is too restrictive. Its stated purpose includes encouraging revenue producing land uses, providing incentives for creative developments, supporting tourism as part of a local economy. These are all worthy goals, but they don’t appear prompted by the law as it’s currently written,” said Eugen Ruoff to kick off the hearing. He suggested that the law would only benefit those who don’t live in the community full time and those who have rentable structures on their properties, a perspective a significant amount of attendees shared.
Several hearing attendees argued that the Town Board should entirely remove the clauses which allow short term rentals only where the dwelling is a primary residence as defined in the local law. According to the draft legislation, a short term rental is defined as “a Primary Residence that is rented in whole or part, to any person or entity for a period of less than 30 consecutive nights, and is not regulated as a commercial or non-residential use under the Town of Gardiner Zoning Law.”
During the pandemic, Gardiner residents have earned much-needed income by renting out second properties, some attendees argued, but that right would be stripped away if the local law was adopted. Mandi Samek, who pointed out she is a new homeowner in the town, suggested that residents would suffer while hotels and spaces like the incoming Heartwood Wildflower Farms would benefit from visitors who no longer have the option to stay at a residence.
Fearing for the potential loss of revenue, The Short Term Rental Association of Gardiner employed the assistance of attorney Brandon McKenzie, who pointed out that the legislation’s objectives are great in theory, but are not supported by any evidence that the current laws are hindering the town’s in achieving them now.
“As of today I have yet to see any indication whatsoever that short term rentals are having any detrimental effect on any of those aspects,” McKenzie said.
Planning Board member Carol Richman hopped on the forum to raise another concern: that Airbnbs be restricted from Shawangunk Ridge zoning in the same way bed and breakfasts are restricted.
“I believe the ridge is one of the most stunning places with incredible biodiversity and that’s why we’re all having these conversations. People are flocking to come here,” Richman said, comparing its fragile ecosystem and the need to protect it to the Great Barrier Reef and Galapagos Islands.
Richman explained that tourists could unknowingly disrupt the area while exploring the surrounding area of their Airbnb. Others suggested that guests would be disruptive in other ways, and asked the Town Board to include sections pertaining to loud visitors who stay at “party houses.” The property owners should be held accountable for their guests’ behavior, they said.
After 90 minutes of discussion, Town Supervisor Marybeth Majestic paused the public hearing. It will remain open until the board’s March meeting, where members of the town will be allowed to speak for a final time.